Beth Orton - Bridgewater Hall - 6.10.02

As she stares bewildered at the elegant surroundings of the Bridgewater Hall it's clear to see that Beth is just one of us. One of the normal folks, albeit a little more kooky, and stood there in a black and white striped dress looking like the headmaster is going to give her 50 lines for forgetting her homework she is taken aback. A far cry from the eclectic venues of previous tours which have included everywhere from the Student University circuit through to the Cambridge Folk Festival as well as recording with the likes of the Chemical Brothers and William Orbit. You could take that to mean she's a lost soul who hasn't found her home, but when it comes down to the raw details Orton is just a classic old skool songwriter who's love of melody has found her fans stretch from bearded folk dwellers to come down clubheads.

In these surroundings though the beats are stripped to a minimum while violins serenade the night sky alongside cello's and lightly brushed snare's. We kick our heals back, sink back into the chairs and imagine young nymphs with champagne on tap , while old gents shout bravo from the circle at Orton's in-between song banter. With much of tonight's set build around the melancholic yearning of the "Daybreaker" album it set's a mood of deep reflection from the outset with "Paris Train", "Ted's Waltz" and the Ryan Adam's penned "God Song" and results in a mood which at times diverts past entertainment and takes us through a course of psychotherapy. It's not a easy journey and when Beth dips back into the "Central Reservation" album with the title track and her biggest hit to date "She Cries Your Name" it's a welcome relief to reach out to something tangible rather than the lo-fi miserablism which prevailed for much of the show.

With 3 albums behind her Beth needs to rediscover what made us fall in love with her in the first place. The wide eyed innocence which still shines through in her nervous in between song banter and results in jokes which are more enjoyable than most of the songs taken from her "Daybreaker" album. It was also an absolute oversight of mass proportions that she chose to leave classic tracks such as "Live The Dream" off "Central Reservation" which any true fan would rate as her finest moment. There was a time when you could count successful female singer songwriters on one hand, but with stripped down soul bearing songs being an anti-dote to the shallow Pop Idol phenomena the likes of Kathryn William's and Heather Nova are close behind. At a junction in her career where artists continually queue at her door in hope of a collaboration. maybe she needs to find a song writing partner (such as Johnny Marr who she previously worked with) who could bring out the best of our Beth and return to what we once loved.

Alex McCann

Post your Beth Orton reviews / comments on the Message Board